Diffusion-weighted Magnetic Resonance Imaging for Predicting Response to Chemoradiation Therapy for Head and Neck Squamous Cell Carcinoma: A Systematic Review

Korean J Radiol. 2019 Apr;20(4):649-661. doi: 10.3348/kjr.2018.0446.


Objective: To systematically review the evaluation of the diagnostic accuracy of pre-treatment apparent diffusion coefficient (ADC) and change in ADC during the intra- or post-treatment period, for the prediction of locoregional failure in patients with head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC).

Materials and methods: Ovid-MEDLINE and Embase databases were searched up to September 8, 2018, for studies on the use of diffusion-weighted magnetic resonance imaging for the prediction of locoregional treatment response in patients with HNSCC treated with chemoradiation or radiation therapy. Risk of bias was assessed by using the Quality Assessment Tool for Diagnostic Accuracy Studies-2.

Results: Twelve studies were included in the systematic review, and diagnostic accuracy assessment was performed using seven studies. High pre-treatment ADC showed inconsistent results with the tendency for locoregional failure, whereas all studies evaluating changes in ADC showed consistent results of a lower rise in ADC in patients with locoregional failure compared to those with locoregional control. The sensitivities and specificities of pre-treatment ADC and change in ADC for predicting locoregional failure were relatively high (range: 50-100% and 79-96%, 75-100% and 69-95%, respectively). Meta-analytic pooling was not performed due to the apparent heterogeneity in these values.

Conclusion: High pre-treatment ADC and low rise in early intra-treatment or post-treatment ADC with chemoradiation, could be indicators of locoregional failure in patients with HNSCC. However, as the studies are few, heterogeneous, and at high risk for bias, the sensitivity and specificity of these parameters for predicting the treatment response are yet to be determined.

Keywords: Apparent diffusion coefficient; Cancer; DWI; Diffusion-weighted imaging; Head and neck; Meta-analysis; Prediction; Response assessment; Squamous cell carcinoma; Systematic review; Treatment response.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Chemoradiotherapy
  • Databases, Factual
  • Diffusion Magnetic Resonance Imaging*
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms / diagnostic imaging
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms / therapy*
  • Humans
  • Squamous Cell Carcinoma of Head and Neck / diagnostic imaging
  • Squamous Cell Carcinoma of Head and Neck / therapy*
  • Treatment Failure